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'Barbershop' is a lively brush with tradition

Friday, September 13, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In "Barbershop," the most senior member of the staff tries to explain just what the business has meant since its opening on Chicago's South Side in 1958. It's more than just a place for a trim and a shave, he argues, although you should never underestimate how that can make a man feel. The shop is a "cornerstone of the neighborhood, our own country club."


RATING: PG-13 for language, sexual content, brief drug references.

STARRING: Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson and Cedric the Entertainer




Local movie showtimes


It's where men go to hang out, to play checkers and to argue about whether African-Americans deserve reparations for slavery or what the ideal womanly waist-to-derriere ratio is. Calvin's Barbershop is irreplaceable, a fact that owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) realizes much too late. Burdened by debt, a sucker for the next get-rich-quick scheme and anticipating the birth of his first child, Calvin sells the shop to the neighborhood loan shark who plans to turn it into a strip club.

Almost all of "Barbershop" takes place during one 24-hour period. In addition to Calvin's dilemma about how -- or even if -- he can regain control of the business started by his grandfather, the movie carries through a comic thread about the theft of an ATM by two knuckleheads (one of them scene-stealer Anthony Anderson) and their attempts to crack it open.

It also introduces the motley cutting crew, including a hot-tempered woman (rap star Eve) who just caught her boyfriend cheating; a know-it-all college student (Sean Patrick Thomas); an ex-convict (Michael Ealy, destined for leading man roles) who can't afford one more strike against him; a white barber (Troy Garity) whose chair is always empty; and gray eminence Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer).

Throw in Calvin and a shy, sweet barber from Africa and you've got more stylists than Floyd the barber could ever dream about back in sleepy Mayberry. While Calvin's is not modeled directly after one barbershop, shops in Chicago and Harlem helped inspire the authentic look of the place.

Although "Barbershop" loses some of its sharpness and bite whenever it leaves the confines of the shop, it succeeds in creating a real sense of place and a lively cast of characters and anything-goes dialogue. Like those after-shave lotions of old, it's bracing -- in a good way as it celebrates tradition, racial harmony and families related by blood and barbershop.

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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